Tag Archives: healthcare cost

Do you believe everything you hear or read?

13 Aug

Can you believe that 80% of readers/viewers in the U.S. were well versed on Tom Cruise’s divorce but had no idea of the impact that the Affordable Care Act would have in their lives? And among the 20% that had read about the Act, most were uninformed about its implications. I know that many times information we receive is biased and censored forcing me to be skeptical of the source and to always read the other side of the story. While my views are biased in regards to the Affordable Care Act, given the fact that I have lived in a country, Australia, that had universal healthcare and I believe in it, some of the arguments we are hearing are predicated on lies. The Affordable Care Act, in its entirety, is a HUGE victory for seniors, strengthening Medicare, improving community long-term care, providing additional transparency protections against abuse and neglect and lowering costs of medications, among others.

However, what we are hearing during this election year is that the Act that was formulated and approved by Congress, now called Obamacare, will kill 800,000 jobs, is bad for the economy and worse it is a federal takeover. Recently, Congress spent $50 million of our taxpayer’s money drafting a bill to roll back the Act. But let us examine these statements to get to the bottom of the arguments.

According to the Congressional Budget Office 800,000 workers will now retire because they will have healthcare insurance. I assume that those jobs will then be open to others who are seeking employment. So in a sense, it is not a loss of jobs but perhaps the creation of new job opportunities. Let’s face the fact that we cannot afford to continue with the spiraling healthcare costs. In the last three months my husband has had four MRIs, each costing around $4,000 each. He is in perfect health but doctors insist that to be sure nothing has changed he must have another one. Reigning in the growth of healthcare costs is one of the priorities of the Act. Moving dollars away from expensive fee for service Medicare is good for the economy. Experts have concluded that after 10 years of the Act our healthcare system will cost half a trillion dollars less than today. The last argument that this is a federal takeover is a complete undiluted lie. Would you say that delivering 30 million new customers to private insurance companies is a federal takeover? Liberals in fact agree that the Act should have created a more robust public option but that did not pass muster with the strong lobbying arm of the private insurance companies. Seven other states, including Massachusetts, have in the past passed laws offering coverage to all. All but one has failed because the law did not mandate that everyone must be covered. Only Massachusetts mandated that and was the only one that became succesful.

My advice to you is that you must seek the truth, always consider the source of information and use common sense to make your own conclusions. Be skeptical of all you read and hear.

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Changing Lifestyles is our Business

1 Aug

At the beginning we just wanted to provide a dignified life to our low-income seniors. We had seen what isolation and neglect was doing to seniors living in public housing. Most of them had given up on life and were just waiting for the day that they would leave their sorrowful living conditions. Our first impulse was to provide them with a clean, comfortable apartment and the services that would allow them to keep living with decency. After we experienced how their lives changed by having good meals, a little help in getting out of bed and bathing, the opportunity to be with others and having the right medication at the right time, we realized that there was much more we could do. What about if we improve their life expectancy, help them avoid hospitalization, prevent them from falling down, make them more alert so they can enjoy this stage of life.

At first most were reluctant to engage in any kind of physical activity. After all, most had never done much exercise in the past and exercising was not an acceptable behavior from elderly individuals. Changing their mind-set was sometimes a struggle, a change of routine from one of complete inertia to one where they have to exert themselves. So we started with a very small group of “willing victims” that were willing to perform stretching exercises. We used music and dancing to entice them. Some were embarrassed at the beginning but later it became their morning routine. Little by little others, watching from afar, joined the group. After all, it seemed that those willing to go along were having fun and socializing with those next to them. The group grew from a handful to over fifty and from that moment they were not willing to live without the exercises. We became more innovative with our program, offering dancing classes, yoga, music classes, fitness programs, personal trainers, aquatic courses and gardening.

The clients were having fun but that was not all. Those who regularly engaged in these activities saw great improvements in cognitive and physical health, fewer trips to the emergency room, less need for medication, 50% less daily bathroom trips, a decrease in back and muscle pain and dramatic decrease in nursing home care. They also experienced less anxiety and agitation, using their energy in a positive way. Another side effect was an increase in socialization with the staff and the residents.

The beneficial results of exercising have been well-recognized, not only for aging individuals but for people of all ages. Recent reports on wellness programs collaborate what we found happening among our clients, improved health, less hospitalization, increased alertness and feeling of wellness and increased socialization among clients.

The moral of the story: if you give seniors a chance to change their lifestyles, after some reluctance they will experience, on their own, a sense of wellness and optimism. But this is not all, by changing lifestyles and improving health, everyone wins. Healthcare costs go down, costs to families are reduced and turnover at the facility goes down.

Elders Do Better at Home

19 Jun

 What accounts for reducing healthcare costs, faster recovery of seriously ill clients and improved physical and cognitive heatlh? You will never guess – bringing services to where these clients live.

The private assisted living industry is now fully engaged in servicing elderly clients in their homes. Most major assisted living chains are now caring for clients by dispatching caregivers to their homes at a cost of $240/day. Most have seen a growth of 20% in this line of service. The impetus to engage in this line of service may have come as a result of the stagnation that private facilities have been experiencing for the last five years; or, perhaps it may have been the result of several studies revealing that 89% of elders wish to remain at home as long as possible. Hospitals are finding out that seriously ill elders do better when medical services are provided in their homes.

John Hopkins University School of Medicine began the home-hospital movement back in 1996 as a pilot program. Research has proven that elders with potentially deadly diseases like congestive heart failure and cellulites can be safely treated at home with astonishing results. Not only was the care as safe and as satisfactory as hospital care, but recovery was faster and the cost much lower, 60% less.

There is no doubt that the trend in the future will be to provide as many services as possible to elders in their homes. A great idea!

Impact of Supreme Court Decision on seniors

30 Mar

In June the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the fate of the healthcare reform and with it, the fate of many seniors in this country.  There is consensus that healthcare reform cannot be viable if the public option is deemed unconstitutional.  This comes at a time when the economic and health security of seniors is at its worst.  Healthcare reform,although aimed at the 40 million uninsured individuals, provided great benefits to seniors who cannot afford long term care.  Included in the healthcare reform were incentives to state to provide affordable long term care to seniors who want to remain in their communities and avoid costly nursing home care.

Lets take a look at what is at stake.  Debt and deficit reduction proposals by policymakers include major changes to thre three major entitlement programs, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.  Some proposals include raising the age of retirement to 67 years, asking higher income Medicare beneficiaries to contribute more to the cost of Medicare and federal block grants to states so they can pay the federal share of their Medicaid program expenses.  One mistake made by policymakers is to look at each of these programs separately and failure to recognize how interrelated they are in their effect on the economic security and well being of seniors.  For example, stopping annual increases in social security payments will result in less funds available to seniors to pay for healthcare.

Most seniors live on low or modest incomes, 1 in 10 have income below the poverty level ($10,458) and the number of seniors living in poverty increased when you take into account out-of-pocket expenses from 9 to 15%.  Many seniors today do not have long term care insurance coverage which means that assisted living and community care services are unaffordable or that paying for them will require a larger outlay.  It is predicted that low incme seniors will exhaust all their assets by the time they reach older age.  It is estimated that 2/3 of those 65 years and older will need long term care services.  Meaning that they will be solely reliant on Medicare and Medicaid to survive.  And yet most states restrict long term care funding in community settings forcing these seniors to enter nursing home care prematurely at four times the cost.  Dont they see the writing on the wall, or is it that they constantly engage in wishful thinking?  Those who will fare the worst are minority groups.  Poverty rates among black and hispanic seniors are more than twice as high as those among their white counterparts.  To compound the problem they suffer from a multitude of healthcare problems, again higher than the white seniors.  One wonders what information our policymakers rely on to make untimely and disastrous cut cutting decisions.  Not our seniors.